retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Associated Press reports that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has rejected a final appeal by the US government of an earlier ruling that prohibited country of origin labeling (COOL) of meat sold in the US.

The ruling says that any such labels will have to be dropped on the grounds that they put livestock from other countries, including Mexico and Canada, at a competitive disadvantage.

According to the AP story, "The Obama administration had previously revised labels to try to comply with WTO obligations. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said that if the WTO ruled against the final U.S. appeal, Congress will have to weigh in to avoid retaliation — such as extra tariffs — from the two neighbor countries." The story goes on to say that the victory, while it went against the US government, is "a victory for the U.S. meat industry, which has said the labels are burdensome. Meat processors quickly called for repeal of the labeling laws after the WTO decision."

Peter Larkin, president/CEO of the National Grocers Association (NGA), said he was pleased by the ruling: "Independent supermarket operators are known for delivering top-notch service in their meat departments and are committed to providing their customers with high quality meats as well as information to help consumers make important food choices; however, the COOL labeling mandate has long imposed excessive burdens and costs with no clear evidence of meaningful consumer benefits. In fact, a recent report released by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation shows that only 15 percent of consumers use COOL labels, which has declined considerably from 26 percent in 2014."
KC's View:
Now that the WTO has ruled on this, there's probably not much that can be done about this.

But ... I do think this is yet another example of a governmental bureaucracy that does not understand the notion of transparency and how the world has changed in this regard. And, of course, business likes to feed on this delusion (though only when it suits business's needs).

To me, consumers knowing where their food comes from ... not to mention what is in it ... seems like a perfectly reasonable expectation. And I always have to wonder about those who think not.